Midsized Company Marketing Communications Budget Planning

This is the time of year when most companies, brands and nonprofits are involved with developing their marketing communications plans and budgets for next year. This is not an easy task in any year but, whether you’re already deeply involved in the process, or just starting, the task is even more challenging this year given the continuing global and economic uncertainties.

More than ever, increased accountability and scrutiny of the decision-making process is a necessity for improving marketing communications ROI. Customers, whether existing or new, have a multitude of choices for evaluating and selecting a product or service, so it’s extremely important to be on the same page with them.

What follows recommends a three-pronged approach to help you develop a budget and plan to profitably impact your marketplace.

Understand Your Customer Target Audience
Like most managers, you probably believe you fully understand the wants and needs of your customers, as well as their knowledge of your brand. But with so many new methods available to customers for comparing your brand to competition, are you really sure?

Is it smart to plan and commit your precious marketing communication dollars to what you think you know about customers? Maybe it would be a lot smarter to learn directly from them what they want, and how you stack up to their needs.

Ultimately, that means market research. Whether you’re a B2B, B2C or a nonprofit marketer, now is the time to learn from your customer.

  • What attributes or qualities are important to them in selecting a brand? Beyond price, what other factors influence their purchase decision?
  • How do they rate your brand versus competition? What are your strongest and weakest attributes, and what do you need to improve?

Wouldn’t you feel more secure in your decision making if you had concrete answers to these questions before you develop, much less commit to, budgets? And don’t forget about making sure you understand your employees or distributors. They’re your first line of brand advocacy. Their beliefs may not line up with your customers’ beliefs, and could lead to lost opportunities or lost sales. Look before you leap.

A Marketing Communications Audit Can Sharpen Your Message
Once you completely understand your customer, the next step is to focus on your message. The single greatest source of leverage you have is the quality of messaging, whether it’s a television commercial, a post on a Facebook page, your website, articles, blogs or whitepapers. When messaging fails to deliver, it’s usually not the platforms that fail, but rather the lack of integrated focused brand communications.

A marketing communications audit, conducted by outside consultants who don’t have a vested interest or an ax to grind, can – like a financial audit – be an enormous benefit. It will tell you whether all of the creative elements you employ – subject matter, graphics, copy, and tone and manner – are working together with one clear and meaningful message to your customers, as well as your employees.

An additional benefit of a marketing communications audit is its ability to help determine your communications mix and resulting budgets. For instance, based on customer needs, perhaps more should be spent in content marketing, with articles and blogs, and less in paid advertising, consumer promotions or coupons. Just make sure all of your messaging is saying the same thing to meet those customer needs. It’s a matter of reinforcing the image you want to convey and trust in your brand.

Consider Marketing Communications Consultants
No one is doubting that smart, dedicated people have been involved in developing your marketing communications budget and plan. But, if you’re like most midsized companies, your people are probably stretched to the limit.

Consider partnering with an established, senior level consultant to help your team develop, refine and, if appropriate, implement your programs. Above all, make sure a consultant has extensive experience across disciplines, industries and brands, and isn’t trapped by “this is the way we’ve always done it” thinking. An apolitical team, with a willingness to “tell it like it is”, with fresh eyes can be a major asset to your profitable growth.

In today’s unsettled environment, an upfront focus on developing budgets and plans can go a long way to improving marketing communications ROI.